Sunday, September 27, 2009

Every Breath You Take

"I need to rest. I ran out of my breath."

The truth of the matter is that Mommy and Daddy run out of our breath way faster than Sophie. Ever since she stopped waddling around like a drunken sailor and learned how to walk and then to run, she hasn't stopped. The only time she ever slows down her stride is when it's time to go to bed. Then it can take 45 minutes to take the 20-foot walk down the hallway to her room.

a favorite activity is chase, whether it's just a romp around the house or running away from monsters (usually Mommy or Daddy Monster). We always need a rest before Sophie's ready to stop and have to beg her for a break. This time, however, Sophie decided to have a practice at it and it was a very dramatic presentation. She stopped, leaned against the wall, took a couple heaving, deep (and very fake) breaths and said, "I need to rest. I ran out of my breath."

Isn't this the way it is with everyone who tries hard to pretend to be someone or something they're not? They just get it a little off. Junior high and high school seem to be the time that young people are most tested in who they are and who they want to be. Unfortunately, when they try to be something they're not, the results rarely end up being a cute line that's quoted by proud parents. Instead, the young person is teased mercilessly, rejected and hurt.

While Sophie is stretching her boundaries and trying on adult sayings, she is still has a firm grip on who she is and marches to the beat of her own drummer. We're going to work hard to encourage her to do that all her life. I hope she is able to stay true to the independent spirit she has, that she keeps her own style instead of thinking that she has to change it in order to fit in, and that she never loses her sense of drama (it just provides too much comic relief).

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Do Tires Get Cold?

Driving home from somewhere, an SUV with the spare tire on the tailgate pulls in front of us and Sophie starts to giggle, then says,

"That tire must be cold. It has a coat on. That's goofy."

Sophie has long been fascinated with the fact that some vehicles have spare tires on the tailgate. We're constantly surprised at how observant she can be and it's caused us to be much more aware of what surrounds us when we drive because we never know when she is going to point something out and ask if we've seen it.

What I'm glad about is the fact that Sophie didn't ask WHY (the three year-old's favorite question) the tire had a coat on, but that she came up with the explanation herself. I'm glad because I have no idea what my response could have been that would have given such a needless accessory relevance. So far our little lady hasn't felt the need to accessorize her look other than the barrette that she's required to wear when she goes out in public or eats food (otherwise she tends towards a distinctive Cousin It look) and neither of us leans towards excess in the way of jewelry or other trinkets so I'm sure at some point the question of why will come up.

What I'm also glad about is the fact that Sophie decided that a tire with a coat on is goofy. Tire covers average around $50 for a new one. Even while a person is providing advertisement for whatever brand vehicle they are driving, they have to pay in order to do so. Amazing. Fifty dollars can do so much more than keep a tire warm. At orphanage in Uganda (, you can feed a child for almost two months with $50. You can buy a toilet for a Habitat for Humanity home with $50 (

When I was a little girl my family had the opportunity to spend a few years in Beirut Lebanon. During that time my parents were wise enough to show us snapshots of lives that were much different than ours. One of those snapshots was a trip to a Palestinian refugee camp. I had a red troll with me, my favorite one at the time and when we got out of the car I was carrying it. We were immediately surrounded by a crowd of dirty, smelly children in clothing that my parents wouldn't have even kept as rags. Somehow, in spite of the fear I had at being crowded so closely and having all these little hands reaching out and touching my hair and clothes, I locked eyes with another girl around the same age as me. Somehow we became friends in that instant. In a moment of un-childlike selflessness, I held out my red troll to her. She took it gingerly at first, then clutched it to her chest and ran off, I assume to the drainage pipe that she probably called home. Considering the fact that we watched children use orange rinds as boats in filthy ditch water, I'm pretty sure it was the only real toy she had.

I don't know that we'll have the opportunity to show Sophie those kinds of snapshots that she can hold on to when given the chance to spend money on helping others or keeping tires from getting cold, but I do hope that we're able to instill in her what's right and what's just downright goofy.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Emeril, Move Aside

Sophie: "Mommy, you're a good cooker!"

Once upon a time my mother tried to get me to stand by her side and watch her prepare the traditional, family Armenian recipes that she's so good at making. Since I was a high schooler and knew much more than she did, I refused. For many years it didn't matter that I knew how to boil water and push the buttons on the microwave, but then one day I discovered the absolute joy that is the art of cooking.

Now, if I could go back in time, not only would I stand with my mother, pen and pad in hand, but instead of wasting time in college on a subject that I didn't follow anyhow, I'd have gone to the Culinary School of the Arts and become a chef. I'm not talking about Paula Deen cooking here, though I do agree that everything tastes better with full fat milk, cream and butter. I know how to open a can and push microwave buttons already. I love the cooking that I see on Iron Chef America and watch the show simply to see the choreography that is professional cuisine.

Being in the kitchen is a catharsis for me. Pondering a new, difficult recipe, shopping for the ingredients, doing the prep work and then watching it all come together relaxes me and re-energizes me.

Unfortunately, I need to amend the first sentence in the paragraph above. Being in the kitchen USED to be a catharsis for me. That was the period of time we have labeled, "Before Sophie." Post Sophie cooking consists of a stool by my cooking area, the constant fear of tender young skin getting burned, and the stress of having to answer why I do every single thing I do and use every single ingredient I use, not to mention what everything is as well.

Even though these kitchen times aren't as relaxing as they used to be, they've become something else. Through the opportunity to share my love for cooking with Sophie, she's stayed open to trying new foods once she knows that she's helped cook them. My hope is that as the years pass she will absorb a love for the art of cooking and not see it as simply a tedium, or necessity. I hope that she will continue to stand by me, even after she doesn't need a stool and never adopts the high school attitude that I had and with which probably hurt my mother.

I still make the advanced dishes I made Before Sophie, but I have a new audience and there is nothing that will make all the preparation, heat and steam more worthwhile than sitting down at the table and hearing the words, "Mommy, you're a good cooker" come out of my little girl's mouth.

Emeril, you may have a show, but my Sophie thinks I'm a good cooker and that make me think I've come out ahead.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

On Being Dutch

PapPap: You're Dutch
No I'm not. I'm Sophie.

When Sophie was learning to talk, her grandparents had a really tough time understanding what she was saying. Well, we all had a really hard time, but since they didn't see her as often as we did and weren't around the jibberish-turning-into-words, it was even tougher for them.

My in-laws are from Pennsylvania and there's a saying that's come out of there; "You're Dutch."

I don't know where it comes from, but whenever Sophie would say something that obviously made sense to her, but didn't to her PapPap, he'd say she was Dutch. It took a long time, but the day came when Sophie said something silly and PapPap told her, "You're Dutch." Sophie immediately responded, "No I'm not. I'm Sophie."

The days of being Dutch are long gone because Sophie has made it clear that she is NOT Dutch. Another thing that's clear now is her speech so there's really no reason for that cute exchange between grandfather and grand daughter anymore.

It's a pretty young age for a person to have such a sense of self. I hope that she will always remember that she's Sophie and what a wonderful thing that is to be. I hope that when she's confronted with someone labeling her because of a specific trait or quality she's able to face them and strongly say, "No I'm not. I'm Sophie." We too often allow labels to attach themselves to us and end up losing sight of who we started out as and who we had dreams of being.

Sometimes when we're out somewhere I make the mistake many parents make when they try to get a youngster to talk to an adult when the young person doesn't want to. I say, "she's shy." I think I'm going to keep this Sophieism close to my heart so that before words like that can slip out I can see Sophie staring me down and saying, "No I'm not. I'm Sophie."

Thank goodness she is.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

The Babe with the Mouth

Sophie is our three-and-some year-old daughter. It's hard to believe that parents find the need for any other form of entertainment when a child is in the house and we've found that during the "Sophie awake" hours, if the television isn't on a show like Max & Ruby or Lazy Town, we're being constantly entertained by a constant flow of commentary.

When Sophie was 6 months old we brought her home from an orphanage in Yerevan, Armenia after spending a month in the country finalizing the paperwork. While she was still only at the babbling stage, she already had a curiosity and independence that didn't bode well for an easy life for us down the line. Staying true to form, one of the highlights of our little girl is that independent spirit, that desire to learn and the tenacity to keep trying until she gets it right. The downside is that Sophie contains the firey Armenian spirit that can result in an explosive temper and lack of patience.

Throughout the years we've listened to this little girl go from saying "la-nana-nana butter" for a banana with peanut butter to using the word ferocious in its proper context. Through the continuing transition Sophie has taught me much with her 3 year-old wisdom and I thought it important to write it down so I don't forget. Hopefully someone else can glean a little insight from her sometimes brutally honest words as well. As well as a little humor.